I wait for the Brazilian at the bar. We’ve decided to go for a drink before the play but he’s twenty minutes late. When he finally arrives, he’s a bit whiny due to a blocked nose so I insist on buying him a whiskey on the rocks.
“I like your shirt” he says, straightening the collar like my Mother used to, “You look very Brazilian. You look… What is the word in English?” He scrunches up his face with concentration.
“Like a hustler?” I think.
“Chic?” I suggest, even if technically it’s not really an English word.
We settled on suave, although again - it’s not technically English. Stupid English language stealing words from other languages.
On the Tube ride to the theatre we sit across from a huge black man, his puffy fingers and thumbs covered in what looks like hundreds of silver rings. He talks to himself in a loud, incomprehensible monologue, while next to him; an elderly woman with sad eyes leans as far away as possibly, so that she’s practically horizontal. She clutches her bag and makes eye-contact with me every now and then - I imagine - for reassurance. After a while the man turns his attention to a rail in front of him - scolding and slapping it like an impertinent child. As we get off at our stop, the lady gives me one last desperate look.
On the walk to the theatre BB asks me about the play.
“Well, it’s about four guys who make a porn movie.”
“Really?” He’s quiet for a moment, and I wonder if this was such a good idea. But then when has something not being a good idea ever stopped me?
Inside the box office / bar is filling up with middle-aged balding men in leather jackets – better known as the modern gay theatre audience. I point out Luke in some of the publicity photos. He looks thin, the coloured lights making his cheeks sallow. Still sexy though. Stupid, sexy Luke. The Brazilian gets us another drink and I wait on one of the sofas. We haven’t really touched, apart from the lapel brush, not having seen each other for nearly a week. Any intimacy has dissipated. I wonder if I have the patience to rekindle it and I still haven’t made up my mind by the time he brings me my beer in a plastic cup.
The theatre is muggy and only a quarter full, the squeak of leather audible as the audience squeeze into their seats. The lights dim as we squish into the second row.
Luke comes on stage and takes the spotlight. As he begins his monologue he casually takes off his jacket, his t-shirt and then his trousers until he’s only wearing a pair of white designer briefs. As he continues to speak, he puts his hand down his pants and starts to simulate wanking. I think about touching the Brazilians knee at this point, but decide against it.
Afterwards we wait in the foyer. The Brazilian and I have stolen a furtive kiss. He can’t stay, he tells me, because he has to meet a friend for dinner. Brazilians eat late apparently. Stupid, sexy Brazilians. Suddenly Luke’s there and I’m hugging him and making introductions and telling him how much I genuinely enjoyed the play and we’re walking together to a pub just round the corner and I say goodbye to my date (who looks a little put out) and I’m walking with Luke and we’re smiling and it’s summertime in little theatreland. Still chatting, we walk up to the bar where Luke gets handed a glass of white wine.
“Drew, this is Jack. Jack, Drew.”
“Hi Jack.” I say, almost as a question.
“Nice shirt.” Jack says.
Jack’s female companion introduces herself, but her name washes over me. Jack is fresh looking. Short hair coiffed with gel. Thick arms. Cute. Snug fitting t-shirt that might as well read ‘Will Shag Luke Tonight’.
After we’ve all got a drink, we sit down at a table. Luke is talking me up big time – I’m a great writer, a great friend, a great everything. I feel a bit overwhelmed until I realise that the gushing is probably to impress Jack. I am one of Luke’s cool arty friends. In a crazy shirt. Woo.
I start talking to the girl, who’s wearing one of those trendy green dresses that makes her body look shapeless - but in a trendy way. I’m on Charm Offensive 9000 now so I weave my conversation carefully like a well rehearsed comedian, peppering the dialogue with droll one-liners. That’s what I want to be. Droll. I’m Kristen Scott Thomas’s character in Four Weddings in a Funeral
“So you’re a writer?” Jack asks, “I guess you have to keep a strict routine?”
I say that, yes, I do.
“I don’t know if I could be so disciplined. Do you know what? At Uni I preferred dissertations because I was terrible at exams, but it meant that I had to spend hours and hours writing. To make sure I finished it I used to reward myself for with a wank.”
Oh, he’s funny too. Stupid, sexy Jack.
Half an hour later and I’ve quite warmed to him. Luke’s just finished the embarrassing Pride story – the one with the “Drew tried to get in the Jacuzzi fully clothed” punch line - when I decide that this is my cue to leave.
“Any good actor knows when to make his exit,” I tell Luke, as I thank him again for a wonderful performance.
As I step out into the warm summer night to start my journey home, a word pops into my head. I imagine I might teach the Brazilian it if I see him again; another word that the English language has seen fit to pilfer. “Catharsis” I say aloud a few times, as if I’d discovered it for the first time too.